SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It was February 23, 2020 when a young African American went for a jog, according to his family. But 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery never made it home again.
Arbery died after being shot three times after being chased through a neighborhood in Braunschweig by two, then three white men.
Suspects Gregory McMichael and his son Travis and William “Roddie” Bryan told authorities that they believed Arbery was a burglar suspect and tried to arrest him. None of the men saw the reported break-in and / or break-in and neither called the police.
The McMichaels informed authorities that there was an argument when Arbery attempted to grab Travis’ gun after Travis left his pickup truck with the gun in hand.
No charges were originally filed, but the McMichaels and Bryan were later charged with Arbery’s murder after a video (recorded by Bryan) of part of the persecution was released. All three pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.
On Tuesday, Arbery’s family honored the young man, whose case was publicized nationwide.
In this image from a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday May 5, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery stumbles and falls to the ground after being shot dead when Travis McMichael in a neighborhood outside of Brunswick, on February 23, 2020, Georgia, holding a shotgun. (Twitter via AP)
This sparked demonstrations for change, and in June 2020 lawmakers passed a hate crime law. Georgia had previously been one of only four states without such a law.
Rep. Carl Gilliard, a Garden City Democrat, says there is more to be done. He has pledged to repeal the citizen’s existing detention law after suspects reportedly cited the law as a justification for persecuting Arbery.
Gilliard says the existing law was passed in 1863.
“This was a vicious law that basically gave people the legal right to lynch black people,” said Gilliard. “The clause in that law originally said they could hold someone up to 48 hours, and in 1863 a lot could happen in 48 hours.”
“Fast forward to where Ahmaud Arbery is jogging around a parish,” he continued, “and it is a disadvantage that individuals would use the citizen’s arrest law in defense after openly murdering someone in public and on video.”
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, right, claps his fists with Garden City Democratic MP Carl Gilliard at the State Capitol in Atlanta on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. Republican Kemp announced a plan to abolish the Detention Act for Georgian Citizens, which was blamed in part for the 2020 death of Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Georgia. (AP Photo / Jeff Amy)
So Gilliard says the state must go forward and repeal the old law and replace it with one that makes more sense for the time.
“It repeals the old law that as a citizen you can’t just arrest someone instead of calling 911,” said Gilliard.
The bill is backed by Governor Brian Kemp, and Gilliard is confident that it will not only be passed this year but also be considered one of the most important pieces of legislation.
“We looked into the murder around this time last year and for months there have been all the initial problems getting this bill going and filing,” he said.
“And to see how it comes out now that it looks like it’s actually going to go into the House and Senate,” said Gilliard, “that means his life may not have been in vain.”